I’ve always loved words and can’t imagine a world without books. But more and more, it seems as if words can’t capture the essence, can’t fathom the depths of the soul, unless they evoke vivid images. It’s why Jesus taught lessons in parables, using the everyday things around him as metaphors for deep truths.
For example, I can tell myself to let go of past hurts in plain language. But it’s far more effective when I picture these resentments as boats leaving a beautiful harbour. And, in fact, that’s the imagery the old adage uses in warning us against harbouring grudges.
A mental picture can convey a clarity. There’s a children’s game called Monkey in the Middle, where the child inside the circle attempts to catch the ball the others are keeping away from her. It’s a frustrating game for that child. Often misery comes from believing others are withholding something essential for our happiness. When we picture the problem as that kind of game, you realize that it’s an illusion and you do have the freedom to walk away.
Dreams communicate truths in their cryptic symbols. Years ago, during a dark time, a dream about a beautiful underground garden with pink-blossoming trees was a source of comfort and encouragement. Every spring, when cherry trees blossom, I’m reminded of that dream and how it gave new hope.
The picture is our common speech, understood all over the world, comprehended before we ever speak a word.